Tuesday, 26 October 2010

A lonely furrow

Ploughing the sands. That's a saying I liked until I realised that perhaps I was ploughing the sands with my ideas on social well-being but now it turns out I'm simply ploughing a lonely furrow. And it's only lonely becasue my celebrity endorsers have no idea they're endorsing me.

Ploughing the sands, should anyone care, relates to the pointless pursuance of a particular task, such as writing a blog for no-one or resurrecting long lost economic ideals or remembering the Ogrons. I'm a bit of a fan of cultivating sand in my spare time. Just because you're in a minority doesn't mean you're wrong!

The Guardian has come to my rescue. Two A list celebrities have come out and agreed with me, assuming their complete ignorance of my existence is no bar to agreement. First up - Armando Iannucci   http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/oct/23/armando-iannucci-interview-coalition-cuts who, it turns out, voted Lib Dem in 2003 and came along for the ride until the C word. Secondly, Iain/Ian Banks has waded in with his usual heart-on-his-sleeve sincerity in the letters page http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/oct/23/city-boys-drool-over-cuts.

Both of these articles encourage me that I'm not the only one still inclined to believe that cuts are not the answer to the crisis, or at least not the only answer. When Nick Clegg railed against the FSA for condemning the spending review as unfair he made the valid point that you can't judge fairness by targets and statistics. What he needs to rediscover is that you can't measure success quite so easily either. A return to the days when a triple A credit rating was all the government of the day aspired would be a failure and, however difficult, Clegg must remember it is a politicians job to remain steady under the persuasive muscle of expensive lobbyists and deliver a life and opportunity for all members of a society before, rather than after, all other considerations.

We none of us choose the societies we are born into but those of us lucky enough to grow up in a free and fair society should never forget the sacrifice of others in ensuring our basic freedoms. Before we sneer too loudly at the stupidity of the Tea Party in America, we should remember the cheering backbenchers last Wednesday as Osborne announced the demise of a way of life for 500,000 innocent vicims of an economic theory. And now, if you'll excuse me, the sand is looking a bit dry.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Let's hear it for the cuts....

As Boy Osbourne sat down after formalising the inevitable social butchery of Coalition spending cuts, the Tory benches erupted in wild applause. It was pretty sickening to hear, possibly worse to witness live and in the flesh for those Libs inhabiting the Commons. I'm not so sure it was such a bad thing myself. The obvious glee of the barely restrained Tory right might have served as a recruitment drive for a New Model Army, but it also shone a light, yes one of those lights that politicians are busy shining in many a nook and whatnot, on an uneasy Nick Clegg.

I think Mr Clegg may be squirming under the pressure of being shackled to the silent blue hordes. When Labour kicks the bin it is is to Nick Clegg that everyone looks to get a reaction. When the Press analyse policy, it is the Liberal Democrats who invite scrutiny. We/They have become the modern day Ypres salient - break through here and the war is as good as won for those wishing to rush back to the polls or sell a few more newspapers. And, if I can take the WW1 analagy a little further than Douglas Haig managed to advance the line, the relentless bombardment has intensified with the news of an all time low in the opinion polls for the Liberals, this despite the majority of Sun readers agreeing with the cuts and public opinion still seemingly benign.

Nick Clegg certainly didn't like the Institute for Fiscal Studies' findings that the cuts hit the poor hardest. "Distorted nonsense" he decried. He may have a point, we shouldn't see life, the universe, everything as just a profit and loss account disposed to be judged financially. But he must know that the cuts were not in the manifesto, that by and large they were in the Tory manifesto. Cameron has paused and let the coalition partners come panting up the road behind him, full of 'we didn't realise' (tuition fees) and 'the view from here is not what it was from there'. I think Nick Clegg knows his supporters are sceptical at best, that they believe the cuts are unfair and that Tory supporters don't and don't care what his supporters think. If you follow me.

If the party wants me back (and they may not) or even people like me, it might play well to expose the gaps that are now, for the first time, appearing. Liberals have taken gambles in the recent past and most have paid off but if they want this unholy alliance to get anywhere near working they need to publicise their unease. Nick Clegg might feel this is contrary to the spirit of coalition but, like finding a way of making the banks pay big time without chasing them away to their tax havens, pushing the boundaries of dissent against the Tory overlords might just keep the sorry ship afloat long enough to salvage the cargo.

Monday, 18 October 2010

They're all the same

I had my attention drawn to this weeks Victoria Coren article in the Observer  http://m.guardian.co.uk/?id=102202&story=http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/oct/17/victoria-coren-nick-clegg-greer-jacobson.. Pretty much what you would expect, pretty much what I would expect until the line 'This isn't meant to be an attack on the Lib Dems; all the parties are the same. They're interchangeable'. This really shows how far the Liberals have come and how low they've sunk. No longer ridiculed by the nod to their unelectability, they're grouped in with all the other parties in the laziest put down of all.

In the good old days I used to rail against this comment. Well done the chattering classes, dismissing heartfelt passion and energy as the corrupted morals of each and every politician. Moving slightly to catch more sun, the loungers fall  back on one of the staples - all politicans are in it for themselves, a truth so self evident that it serves as a clincher for any dispute.

I refute it but I find it harder to dismiss it completely out of hand these days. The number of politicians who have stood the test of time and more or less stuck to a principle or two seem an exotic rarity. The Liberals promised to be a sanctuary for them in a hostile world but since the dawn of the coalition I have to say I might just have been a bit too wide-eyed and innocent. In order to make power work it would seem they have to let principle go and in doing so, challenge the very nature of what a party stands for. If the bottom line of the coalition is that Nick Clegg defends his spending cuts by talking up the brilliance of allowing more two year olds to be taught by the state (2 year olds for pities sake) in total work families, for example, I begin to see that power does have the ability to corrupt principles enough to make it pointless following a team. Perhaps its just the Government and the Opposition?

I'm no longer sure I like the idea of coalition politics in any form but I'm fully aware the poisoned economy has made being in charge a slightly iffy proposition. The trouble is, if in adversity you feel unable to speak up loudly for the things you disagree with (as the Tories will do over voting reform) then what exactly is the Liberal Democrats place in the world?

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

An Education

Once again it falls to the Ogrons to front the latest assault on the quality of life. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Lord Browne's report into graduate funding, it's the Lib Dems that have come out to play with the media. Was the report shown to the Tories at all? Does anyone have any idea, 24 hours in, what David Cameron's view is?

Pre-coalition, this was exactly the issue that made me glad to be orange. Some Liberals may have embraced controversial issues because they knew they would never have to enact them but I always felt power for power's sake was pointless. It would have been easier to support the Labour party if being on the winning side was all that mattered but for me, and many like me, it meant more to be righty than mighty. And I don't think it was falling back on our principles that made us unelectable, more the pocketing of our mainline policies by the other two when it suited them and the constant barrage of condescending comment from all sides.

So what do those Liberals who signed the education pledge not to raise tuition fees do now? If Vince Cable is to be believed, nothing. Apparently the reality of the situation has forced him to see tuition fees in a new light. Not the 'where did it all go so wrong?' light, more the 'now I'm in power I can stopping mucking about and go with the flow' light. We used to value university education, now we put a value on it, another sop to the 'why should I pay for.....?' brigade.

We already know Oxford and Cambridge open their doors less to the working classes, if such a term doesn't sound too Eric Blair, than their less fussy neighbours. Removing the cap will make it worse. Oxbridge doesn't need to pander to the masses as much as it needs hard cash and the overseas students and public school pupils who already pack their lecture halls will be willing and able to pay a premium, possible even glad to if it keeps the riff raff out. We give in to the social Darwinism yet again without murmur, the perpetuation of unfairness in society marching on triumphant. Or perhaps it's just coincidence that all the clever people go to Eton, generation after generation of them.

The Liberals do us all a disservice by accepting Lord Browne's proposals without debate. The chance to examine how we got here has been trumped yet again by the need to act immediately. And not a Tory in sight.

Friday, 8 October 2010

On Blogs

As you get into this Blog business you realise that some people out there are blog happy. Are they frustrated authors? Are they authors? Most people I know have time to squeeze in The Inbetweeners before falling asleep on the sofa with the kid's packed lunch still unmade.

Nick Robinson, that masterly observer of the modern game of tabloid reported politics, gets paid for it so fair do's. Apostrophe in do's? Many of the other blogs I've toured have no such excuse, they're just out there filling in the hours they've rescued from the demands of life. To be fair, most of them seem to have readers and therefore need to keep going for fear of being seen as impulsive, unlike myself. I'm impulsive, but, you know, four followers is less than my band got on a wet thursday after Christmas. No one would notice if I gave up and those of you good enough to have become followers might justifiably sigh with relief.

But its good for my soul. Someone once wrote that we have forgotten how to disagree and I don't disagree with that. In the days when I willingly went door to door selling the LibDem message (about six months ago) I took comfort in the fact that I stood for something rather than hid from everything and I'm hoping this blog will give me the same rosy glow. I believe it's important to stand up and bare a small part of your soul to random friends and strangers - it shows you're for something, not against everything.

Blogs, it seems, may well have replaced the pub. Or it may be Facebook or Twitter. I learn't many a lesson in a pub. Before the advent of the internet the pub offered a forum to discuss opinions, a public place where friends gathered and exchanged views. You can't do that in the pub so easily now, unless its the local, no music, meat raffle on Friday pub where the old gimmers hang out. The pub has had its soul stolen, its purpose perverted.

So those of you wondering why I started this blog a) read the first post and b) think of the good it does me and my fellow bloggers. Convinced I have something to say in a world often moving too fast to listen, the blog lets me stand up to be knocked down and gives me the rolling arguements to shape my soul, antagonise my friends and work out my allegiance. It might do the same for you?